Public utility or private asset? The evolution of UK airport ownership

The ownership of commercial airports is of strategic national, commercial and political importance. Airport ownership directly influences the planning, development, policy and management activities that are undertaken at the site and the extent to which central government can influence them. Historically, local Government ownership and operation of UK municipal airports permitted the implementation of long-term development plans and ensured, as far as possible, that local airports met the needs of the communities they served. The privatisation of UK airports following the 1986 Airports Act resulted in the model of UK airport ownership quickly changing from one of publically-owned utility to privately-owned commercial asset. In light of current debates surrounding the future viability of UK regional airports following the COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented falls in passenger numbers, the aim of this paper is to examine the evolution of UK airport ownership between 1986 and 2020. The findings of the empirical research reveal that since 2012 the trend of full private sector ownership of airports has changed with local authorities increasingly re-investing in municipal facilities in partnership with private consortia. The implications of these changing ownership dynamics, both for airports but also the communities and regions they serve, in the post-COVID era, are discussed.


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  • Accession Number: 01762407
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Dec 17 2020 3:18PM